Work Weekend at Detroit Lake

Once we finally had the RV out of the repair shop we were really itching to get it out camping again. Since we purchased it a few months ago we have only been able to take it on one camping trip (America’s Birthday). We decided to check out a place we had heard a lot about but had not been able to see yet, Detroit lake. Detroit Lake is a dam lake about an hour and half outside of Portland and on the way to Bend.

Unfortunately, Oregon has been experiencing a drought, just like much of the West, so the lake was nearly empty. Although the campground was full of campers, no one was there to enjoy the lake. The water line was so low that you could walk right through the “swim area” marked off by buoys, now resting in the dirt, continue on for quite a while until you finally made it all the way to the edge of the deep water drop off. The actual water line was about 30 feet below. It was a sad sight. Here in Oregon, our drought actually began during the winter season. We received only a small percentage of our typical snowfall. Because much of our water comes from snowmelt, the lack of snow last winter has continued to affect water levels throughout the state. Fingers crossed for a white winter this year.

Fortunately for the lake, but not the campers, it was also predicted to rain all weekend. We were actually looking forward to the rain. We have been wanted to take the RV camping in the rain so that we can test all of our roof seals and find any leaks before they become problems. Furthermore, our primary goal was to use this weekend as a work weekend to complete a few projects in the RV interior. The rain wouldn’t stop us one bit and would even help keep us nice and cool inside while providing some lovely background noise. We couldn’t wait.

Brandon stopped by the RV after work on Thursday to give the roof a once over and to turn on the fridge so that it was cool when we arrived on Friday. However, the fridge didn’t seem to be working. We had lost power to the whole unit. Brandon started trouble shooting, checking wires and connections, but was not having any luck. He decided to move on. The next thing to check was the roof. We wanted to find any obvious damaged seals before taking the RV out into the rain. While up on the roof Brandon found that we were missing a sewer cap vent. Luckily, the seals all looked good, but on an RV there is always something to fix, in this case, the sewer vent.

Brandon first went to Walmart to find a new sewer cap vent. We usually try to avoid Walmart but they are one of the only stores that stock RV parts so it has become almost unavoidable. In this case, they did not have what we needed so Brandon moved on to Home Depot. While looking for a fitting that might work for an RV sewer vent, Brandon ran into a guy that actually runs a mobile RV repair business. He could tell that Brandon was looking for an RV part and asked him about the problem. He was able to quickly show Brandon the right fitting for the sewer vent, so Brandon asked the guy if he knew anything about RV refrigerators. Apparently this guy used to work for the shop where we had most of our RV systems checked out and knew a ton about RV repair. Since leaving the shop he had started his own business fixing RVs for people on site so that they did not need to have them towed or drive them to the repair shop. And our luck, he had a few moments to spare and was happy to have a look at our refrigerator! It turned out to just be a bad connection, but this guy knew the exact wire to jiggle and fix the problem. He also spent a few minutes answering some of Brandon’s questions about our rig. He had a wealth of knowledge and we are very happy to have made such a random and useful connection at the Home Depot. After our new friend took off, Brandon replaced the sewer vent and headed home for the night himself.

I was able to leave work a few hours early on Friday, which allowed me to go home and gather our groceries, bags, the dog, and meet Brandon at the RV when he got off work around 5pm. We knew that we had a decent drive ahead of us and wanted to try and get there before dark.

We’ve developed a bit of a system when packing for weekend trips that allows us to really maximize our time. We do our grocery shopping on Thursday and gather all of the refrigerated items into bags that go directly into the refrigerator. These bags then go directly into a cooler for transport. The use of the bags eliminates any guessing and keeps us from forgetting essentials like the mayo and mustard. Dry goods also go into reusable shopping bags on our kitchen table. These are prepacked on Thursday so that I can just grab them and go on Friday. We pack our clothes the night before and pack all of Rudy’s things (food, leash, treats, bowls) into his own reusable bag. The linens are usually in a laundry basket, having been washed and folded after the last trip. This basket  just goes directly into the car. On Friday, when we plan to leave for the weekend, Brandon goes directly to the RV to get it ready for the trip, while I go home to gather all of our stuff. We then meet up at the storage lot and I load the RV and the fridge while he finishes up the other projects. Things like dishes, pillows, lawn chairs, tools, etc., just live on the RV so we don’t need to pack them each time. We’ve only been camping in the new RV once, so this system was mostly developed while we had the Alpha Uno.

After everything was loaded, we left storage and took off for Detroit Lake. We still get excited each time we drive the Alpha 1. The giant front windows make it feel like you are riding in a bus with a fish bowl attached to the front. We also just can’t believe that we are going to be living and traveling in this RV for a full year. It is really a dream come true.

We did not actually make it to Detroit Lake before sun down. The only road there is a two-lane road and it gets very blocked up by RVs, trailers, and boats. We arrived just after dark, but were able to navigate to our spot using the helpful map provided at the front gate. Our spot was right across from the park host, who came out to make sure that we would be able to back into our spot in the dark. While we were glad to have a third set of eyes, Brandon was able to back in perfectly on the first try. I’ve said it before, but our walkie-talkies are one of the best purchases we’ve made in a long time. They are absolutely invaluable when backing this 37 foot bus into a parking spot in the dark.

Once parked, I left Brandon to set up camp and took Rudy for a short walk around the park. Those of you that know our dog know that he is super high-energy. He is dying for a walk after riding in the car for two hours. While circling the campground we walked past a group of about three campsites that were all partying together, maybe a reunion of sorts or just a group of good friends. They had set up string lights over all of the campsites and had pulled all of the picnic tables together so everyone could have a seat. I noticed at least one very large bottle of tequila and a bottle of margarita mix. It looked like a good time. I was also assured that they wouldn’t be bothering us by waking up at dawn. Good neighbors.

Our campsite:


When I returned we made a simple dinner and just relaxed for the evening. The next day we intended to get through a whole slew of projects. Most of Brandon’s projects related to RV repair while most of mine related to either wedding planning or updating this blog. I work at a computer all day at my job, making it difficult to get back on the computer when I return home from work. Weekends away can actually be perfect opportunities to get a little work done. I also find it much easier to write when I am not still reeling from the stress of my job. I work in a courtroom where we primarily handle criminal cases. While I absolutely love my job, it tends to zap some of my creative energy.

The next morning we got up decently early and went for a walk around the campground with Rudy. On our walk we ran into a guy that also had a mid-90s Safari very similar to ours. He had seen us checking in the night before and noticed our rig. He was a very interesting guy and it was fun to chat with someone about their experience with an RV so similar to ours. As far as I know, Safari’s are not made anymore and are pretty distinctive when compared to other RVs. I have a suspicion that we will meet many other Safari owners on our journey.

After our walk we got to work on all of our projects. Brandon’s first project was to install some additional snaps on our bathroom door. As is, you can lock the bathroom door from the outside but not the inside. The door is a wooden slider with a canvas strap that snaps to the opposing wall. Brandon installed an identical snap on the inside of the bathroom wall so that the door can be secured for privacy. Pretty simple.

His next project was installing a fan where a TV had previously been in our bedroom. We never watch TV in bed so the TV was basically useless. The fan, on the other hand, is priceless. He had removed the TV while we were at storage, but still needed to install the new fan. The shelf that held the TV rolls back into a little cubby so that it is not in the way when not in use. It also swivels, useful for a TV and perfect for a fan. Another feature of the TV cabinet that is perfect for a fan is the fact that the TV outlet is connected to the inverter. This means that this particular outlet still works even when the RV is not plugged into an outside power source. This is perfect for a bedroom fan because it will be extremely necessary when we are camping off grid and not using our bedroom A/C unit.




Brandon also spent some time installing a stereo receiver inside one of the speaker cabinets above the dashboard. Our RV already had a number of speakers installed throughout the RV. All that was missing was the receiver to plug in our music. Brandon loves stereo equipment and had a spare receiver lying around that he brought with us on this trip. To make things even easier, the previous owner Lloyd had labeled all of the wires with masking tape. Brandon had the receiver installed in no time and we were playing music right from our phones, throughout the entire RV. You can see the stereo in the open cabinet to the right of the TV, above the dashboard.


After Brandon was done installing the stereo receiver he helped me put together envelopes for our Save the Date cards. Most of the envelopes were pre-addressed, but still needed to be stuffed with a card, sealed, and stamped. We made it through all 100 cards in pretty short order.



While I got to work updating the blog, Brandon completed a number of projects. He organized our basement storage compartments, put moisture absorbers in the storage lockers, added quick connect ends to all of our water lines, and fixed the side marker lights on the RV.

We took Rudy on a long walk when we had a break in the rain.


Later that evening we made dinner and tested out our furnace and washer/dryer. Our furnace worked great. The whole place was nice and toasty. However, we were really unsure whether the washer/dryer combo would be functional. The previous owners told us that they never really used it, but that it leaked the one time they turned it on to test it. RV washer/dryers are very odd. Ours consists of a small unit underneath the stove that both washes and dries. From what I have read online, these machines only handle very small loads and take a very long time to do one load of laundry. Many people just rip them out, repurpose the space, and use laundromats.  We haven’t decided and thought we should start by finding out if our machine even worked. Brandon put it on the “Dry” setting and turned it on. Voila! It worked. The machine was spinning and blowing warm air. We chickened out when it came time to try the “Wash” setting. It was getting late and we really didn’t want to clean up a big spill inside the RV. We will save that test for another day. In either case, I imagine that we will be visiting a lot of laundromats during our trip. Even if the machine works, it is only useful if we have access to a full water and sewer hook-up, which is not available at all campsites. Furthermore, the machine is so tiny that some of Brandon’s work pants won’t even fit inside and there is no way that it could handle a load of bed sheets or blankets.

Overall, a lovely and productive weekend. I was also so happy to see the rain again. When we first moved to Portland the constant rain made me miserable. That first year, I swear it rained from September straight through June. Apparently, that was an unusually wet year, but it left me wondering what on earth I had got us in to. We have yet to have another year like that first one, but I have learned to love the rain. The constant drizzle makes everything feel fresh and clean. The air even feels better because there isn’t any dirt or dust in it. Although I am happy to see the sun again each Spring, by the end of Summer I always find myself missing the rain.

One thought on “Work Weekend at Detroit Lake

  1. Guys,
    I really enjoyed the section about having a kind of “system” when leaving for the unit. It is so necessary and just happens. And the anticipation of extended cruising without having to turn the unit back in is priceless. Docle Vitaviile and Irie Joe love Alpha 1, a ménage a … now wait a minute.


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